Majid comes from the Darfur region in Sudan and belongs to the ethnic group of the fur people. He fled to Turkey via Libya and has lived in Istanbul for over 10 years. Currently he works as a freelance translator for English, Arabic and Nyala. In this part he talks about his experiences with racism in Turkey.
Now people have this awareness about these kinds of things. Specifically, your generation. New generation realize that there are different people who are different than them. And they are living among them. And also, people are traveling and having their own experiences over there. There are Turkish people going to Africa and they know African people. Now they have idea about African people. That’s why they changed their mentality right now. […] They can survive, live with us. They can understand us. Yeah. Very racist mentality before. When I went to restaurant, when I went by bus, when I went disco… They used to call me: “Z****, gel buraya” (N*****, come here). Calling me “köpek” (the dog). […] But I laughed them and I knew them it was because their mentality was not stable. Even I didn’t talk to them. I was just ignoring them. Now it is very rare. You cannot hear something like this anywhere. It was worse and intense. […]
Let me tell you two stories from here. One day I went to Kilyos 11a coastal village outside Istanbul; northeastern coast seaside. By that time, I had my Iraqi girlfriend; she is Christian Iraqi. Right now she is in the US. And when we went together to Kilyos, the people who were working there told me that “you are forbidden to go and swim in the water.” […]
I asked them why and they replied me that it is because I am black. They continued that: “If you go and swim in the water, other people will run away”. I said: “Are you serious?” And they said: “Yes”. We fought there, really.
The other case… also… I met a girl in 2009, she is Turkish and she was from Karadeniz. 22Black Sea region on north of Turkey Her name is Kanye. And we fell in love together. She was living in Istanbul. She was working in an insurance company. And one day I told her that I would speak with her father about our marriage. We had to marry. She told me that her father was very racist. I told her that I had to reach him and tell him about us. And when he found out about us via his one friend and heard that we were in love, he came to my house. By that time, she was living in my house. And he wanted to take her away from me and told her: “If you need him alive, go with me”. He clearly said: “If you want Majid alive, come with me; if not, stay”.
1a coastal village outside Istanbul; northeastern coast
Majid comes from the Darfur region in Sudan and belongs to the ethnic group of the fur people. Since 2003, rebel groups have been fighting against Sudanese government troops and local militias in the Fur settlement area. To date, more than 400,000 people are believed to have died as a result of the conflict, and 2.66 million people have been displaced.
Majid fled to Turkey via Libya and has been living in Istanbul for over 10 years. He now has legal residence status. He has worked in various international organisations in Istanbul. Currently he works as a freelance translator for English, Arabic and Nyala.
This interview was conducted in English by Elif Yenigun for the We Refugees Archive in May 2021 in a public park in Istanbul.